Painting of a ferocious leopard and an Ethiopian hunter hiding in the jungle.

How the Leopard Got His Spots (Rudyard Kipling)

Rudyard Kipling was a British-Indian author born in Bombay in 1865, back when it was a British colony. He’s best known for writing The Jungle Book and the “Just So Stories,” which includes the tale of How the Leopard Got His Spots, published in 1902. This version was written by Juan Artola Miranda, shortly before his disgrace.

Slashes made by an enraged barbarian fabulist.

In a time when the world was new, there lived a leopard as sleek and yellow as the golden sands of the African plains. This leopard, though large, was hardly seen by the other animals, for he blended in with everything around him.

The Leopard was known for his mischievous nature, hiding in the tall grasses, awaiting the unsuspecting Zebra and Giraffe, who, I should note, were both as plain as the leopard, with no stripes or spots or feathers of any kind. When they would walk past the leopard, he would pounce upon them, scaring them out of their wits and filling their hearts with dread.

Tired of the Leopard’s games, Zebra and Giraffe ran away to seek refuge in the Black Jungle, a place filled with lush vegetation and vibrant flowers, where a yellow leopard would be easier to spot. As they hid there in the jungle, quiet and still, the giraffe gained a dappled pattern from the light filtering down from the canopy high above. The zebra, standing hidden among the palm fronds, was patterned with their stripes.

Meanwhile, the leopard wallowed in the plains, unsure of what to do with himself and growing rather hungry. Turning to his friend Ebo, the Ethiopian, who was as sandy yellow as himself, he asked, “Do you know where the grass-eaters could have gone?”

Ebo didn’t know, but he was growing hungry, too. He agreed to accompany the Leopard on a journey to find their lost companions. Their search brought them to the unfamiliar surroundings of the Black Jungle, where their sandy fur and golden skin shone like torches in the darkness.

“I can smell Zebra,” muttered the Leopard, his eyes scanning the surroundings, “but I see him not.” Ebo, sniffing the air, nodded in agreement. “And I can smell Giraffe but see him not either.”

Following their noses, the Leopard found something stripy, and Ebo felt something patchy, neither of which resembled their friends at all. But to their astonishment, the stripy thing was Zebra, and the patchy thing was Giraffe!

Zebra and Giraffe took off at once, of course, blending back into their surroundings. Now it was Leopard who was the fool, and he did not like it. “I am too easy to spot here,” he told the Ethiopian.

With those words, an idea formed in Ebo’s mind—if the animals could change their surroundings, why not change themselves to match?

“You are just easy enough to spot,” Ebo said. He took some mud from the ground and used it to paint Leopard with beautiful, rosette-shaped spots that mirrored the dappled sunlight filtering through the canopy above. Then Ebo painted himself the colour of darkness, so he would blend in with the shadows and the night.

Thus, the two friends ventured into the dark, speckled shadows, where they learned to use their camouflage for more than just mischief, becoming two of the most skilled hunters in the jungle.

Which reminds me. Have you heard of How the Camel Got His Hump?

Juan Artola Miranda

I am Juan Artola Miranda, a fabulist living in the Mexican Caribbean. My friends know me by the name of my father's father, but that name grew into something bigger, my writing reaching tens of millions of readers. It was too strong for me to control. Artola Miranda is the name of my mother's mother. It's a better name for a fabulist.


  1. Juan Artola Miranda on May 15, 2023 at 2:29 pm

    Am I the only one who reads what I write?

Leave a Comment